A handful of local “stars” will get schooled during the seventh annual Dancing with the Hermiston Stars.

Taking over organizing the popular event, the Hermiston Education Foundation is looking forward to a fun time while also providing a fundraising opportunity for seven local nonprofit organizations.

After working with professionals from the Utah Ballroom Dance Company throughout the week, the local stars will attempt to work the crowd to raise additional votes and money for their cause. In addition, they are vying for the coveted mirror ball trophy.

Dancing with the Hermiston Stars is Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Hermiston High School auditorium, 600 S. First St. Advance tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students. They are available by clicking “Events” at www.hermistoneducationfoundation.org or the Hermiston School District office, 305 S.W. 11th St. Tickets purchased at the door are $25.

With a theme of Music Legends, the performances should be legendary. The local dancers include Beth Anderson, a Hermiston High School drama teacher. Dancing for the Hermiston Education Foundation, the host organization provides grants to district employees to enhance educational opportunities for students. Anderson reports her last dance performance at age 6 was a tap routine to “I’m a Little Teapot.” As for Jake Bacon, Highland Hills Elementary School principal, it’s “Hammer Time.” He hopes to dispel rumors that “you can’t touch this” as he raises money for the Kiwanis Club of Hermiston.

Jonny Badillo, who’s dancing for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), picked up some tips from Umatilla-Morrow County Head Start co-worker Jesus Rome, who was a participant in the 2016 event (view at www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBFR9pfNOis). CASA volunteers provide support to foster children. Tony Garberg, director of cardiopulmonary services at Good Shepherd Health Care System, will breathe easy as he’s raising money for the Hermiston Rotary Club. The service club is supporting Pioneer Relief Nursery to help prevent child abuse.

Kara Frazier, a first grade teacher at Desert View Elementary School, will kick up her heels for Made to Thrive. The local nonprofit provides support to at-risk youngsters through sports, activities music and art. Ashley Umbarger, who grew up attending Hermiston Campus Life, now serves as its executive director with her husband, Jeff. And, she’s hoping to cut a rug and a check for the faith-based teen program. Mary Winebarger, who moved to Hermiston in 2010, got involved with Altrusa International of Hermiston in 2017, serving as treasurer. A semi-retired bookkeeper, she’s hoping to add some cash to the ledger of the local service club.

Getting people to commit to dancing wasn’t a difficult process, said HEF co-president Karen Sherman. The board contacted several local nonprofits and asked if they wanted to be involved with the fundraiser. The organizations then took steps to find people willing to dance on their behalf.

“I think that speaks volumes about our community — that organizations are full of people that will put themselves out there,” said Tricia Mooney, Hermiston School District superintendent.

And, Mooney knows what it means to put her money where her feet are. Despite being apprehensive, she danced during the 2018 event.

“I felt like I really accomplished something when I made it through my 90 seconds,” she said with a laugh. “It was a little scary but it was fun.”

The winner will be determined by a combination of judge’s scores, audience votes and money raised by each dancer. People can cast votes through donations at the event or via https://squareup.com/store/hef.

The first half of Dancing with the Hermiston Stars showcases the local dancers paired up with the professionals. The second portion features a program presented by the Utah Ballroom Dance Company. In addition to an evening of fun, Mooney said it serves as a way to support multiple nonprofits.

“The event has been going on for many years in Hermiston,” she said. “It’s a way to benefit a lot of different deserving organizations in the community.”

Community Editor

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